Guide to the Records of the Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation,1858-1953

Digital Research Library, University Library System

Summary Information

Detre Library & Archives, Heinz History Center
Records of the Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation
Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation
Collection Number
Date [inclusive]
1.75 cubic feet
Language of Materials
The material in this collection is in English.
The Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation was one of the largest iron and steel manufacturers in the United States during the 19th and 20th centuries. These records were generated and collected by the Public Relations Department of J & L and primarily document J & L's centennial in 1953 and the work done in preparation for the event.
Sponsor Note
This finding aid has been encoded as a part of the Historic Pittsburgh project, a joint effort of the University of Pittsburgh and the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania. Funding for this portion of the project has been donated by the Hillman Foundation.

Preferred Citation

Records of the Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation, MSS#33, Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania.

Return to Table of Contents »

Historical Sketch of the Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation

The Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation was one of the largest iron and steel manufacturers in the United States during the 19th and 20th centuries. Headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Jones and Laughlin (J & L) grew out of the American Iron Works founded by John and Bernard Lauth in September, 1853. Four months later Benjamin F. Jones and Samuel Kier joined the firm, giving each man one-quarter controlling interest. The iron furnace and mill was located on the South Side of the Monongahela River, in the East Birmingham neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

The success of the firm was related to the expertise each man brought to it. According to the partnership agreement signed in December 1853, Jones controlled the Warehouse, books, accounts and finance. Bernard Lauth managed the rolling mills and Works. John Lauth supervised the small rolls and turning department. Kier had no listed duties. Each partner received $1,500 salary and retained a capital value of $5,000. What was unique about this iron works was the partners' steadfast determination to reinvest their profits back into the company instead of taking them as personal profits. The company did not pay its investors a dividend until 1870, choosing instead to build more facilities and expandits production capacity.

From 1855 to 1861, the company experienced many changes. Samuel Kier sold his interest to Jones, John Lauth sold his interest to his brother Bernard, and James Laughlin bought into the firm. In August of 1861, "Mr. Bernard Lauth ceased to be active in the business and was later bought out by the remaining partners" for a reported $100,000. This figure did not include an undisclosed sum Lauth received for his patent on the cold-rolled shafting process, acquired in 1859, which proved to be a profitable iron making improvement for the American Iron Works. With the departure of the original owners, the company changed itsname to American Iron Works-Jones and Laughlin's. As improvements in iron processing and the advent of steel making dramatically changed the industry, so too did J & L adapt to remain a top iron and steel producer. Through its first fifty years of existence J & L produced wrought iron, iron bars, and plates, from which nails were made. In 1886 J & L began making steel from its seven-ton Bessemer converter. By 1894 J & L was completely out of the wrought iron businessand produced only steel. As an example through sheer numbers, the J & L outputdramatically increased from its inception to the turn of the century and beyond: 1853, seven tons per day; 1857, 16 tons per day; 1862, 100 tons per day; 1876, 1,000 tons per day; and 1907, 5,000 tons per day.

In 1907, Jones and Laughlin began construction on their Aliquippa Works on aplot of land twenty six miles down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh in Beaver County. J & L also owned the 475 acres of land surrounding the new Aliquippa Works, which it 'sold' to a J & L subsidiary, the Woodlawn Land Company. J & L also named the community Woodlawn, until the name was changed to Aliquippa. The town was incorporated into a borough in 1909, the same year that the Aliquippa Works produced its first "heat" of steel. Employees bought tracts, built homes and created a new community around the factory. The Aliquippa Works allowed J & L to diversify its product line beyond structural steel and sheet metal. The new facility made various steel wire products, tin plates, seamless tubing, steel barrels and welded pipe.

Over the next thirty years J & L expanded at a steady rate with increases intotal output, employees and profits. By the start of World War II, J & L was the fourth largest steel producer in the world, producing over 4.8 million tons of steel a year and employing 45,000 workers. Despite operating in the direct shadow of United States Steel's Duquesne, Homestead and Edgar Thompson Works, J& L remained an independent steel company holding its own in a crowded market. The company's independence is reflected in its "family business" practices, as either a Jones or a Laughlin descendant controlled the firm until the 1930s. This independence ended with the merger of J & L and the French Ling-Temco-Vought Corporation (LTV) in 1974. Coupled with a depressed steel market of the 1970s, J & L rapidly declined in production and soon began demolishing older factories with no intention of rebuilding. The Aliquippa Works shut down most of itsfactories in May 1985. It went from a work force of over 10,000 in 1971 to less than 2,500 at its closing. By 1989 most of the South Side Works and the Eliza Furnaces across the Monongahela River were leveled. In the 1990s, the few remaining buildings serve as a distant memory of the thriving community these factories surrounded.

Return to Table of Contents »

Scope and Content Notes

These records were generated and collected by the Public Relations Department of J & L and primarily document J & L's centennial in 1953 and the work done in preparation for the event. They include correspondence, company histories, manuals and other sundry items. The wealth of these records are found in the photographs which are separately arranged and described. The documentary material included in these records will be of primary use for researchers wishing to gain a better sense of the history of the company.

Return to Table of Contents »


The Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation Records are housed in four archival boxes and are arranged in two series.

Return to Table of Contents »

Administrative Information

Publication Information

Digital Research Library, University Library System Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, Spring, 1999

Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center
1212 Smallman Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Revision Description

 Converted from EAD Version 1.0 to EAD Version 2002 July 1, 2006

Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research.

Restrictions on Use

Property rights reside with the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records and their heirs. For permissions to reproduce or publish, please contact the curator of the Archives.

Acquisition Information

Acc# 1989.132

These materials were received in one accession.

Gift of LTV Corporation, (Records. Records were transferred to the Historical Society by James Eakin, Administrator of Assets Management) in1989.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Steven DoellonJune 21, 1993.

Revision and rearrangement for the encoded version of the finding aid provided byClay Reddingin February 1999.

Return to Table of Contents »

Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Jones and Laughlin Steel Company (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
  • American Iron Works (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
  • Eliza (Steel mill)

Geographic Name(s)

  • Allegheny County (Pa.) -- Industry

Personal Name(s)

  • Crawford, George Gordon, 1869-
  • Jones, Benjamin F., (Benjamin Franklin), 1824-1903
  • Jones, B.F., 1863-1928
  • Jones, B.F., d. 1985
  • Jones, Thomas, 1828-1889
  • Jones, William Larimer, 1865-1926
  • Jones, W.L., d. 1954
  • Jones, W.L., III
  • Kier, Samuel M., 1813-1874
  • King, Willis, 1851-1936
  • Laughlin, George M., Major, 1842-1908
  • Laughlin, Henry A., 1838-
  • Laughlin, Irwin, 1840-1871
  • Laughlin, James, 1806-1882
  • Laughlin, James, Jr.
  • Lauth, Bernard, 1820-1894
  • Lauth, John


  • Coal industry and trade -- Pennsylvania -- Allegheny County
  • Coke industry and trade -- Pennsylvania -- Allegheny County
  • Inland water transportation
  • Inland waterway vessels
  • Iron industry and trade -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh
  • Iron foundries -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh
  • Steel foundries -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh
  • Steel foundries -- Pennsylvania -- Aliquippa
  • Steel foundries -- Ohio -- Cleveland
  • Steel foundries -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh

Return to Table of Contents »

Collection Inventory

Series I Historical Material ca. 1898-1953   14 folders

Scope and Content Notes

The Historical material includes correspondence, publications, written histories and biographies and other miscellaneous material. The historical material primarily reflects records generated by the Public Relations Department of Jones and Laughlin in preparation of the centennial publication and festivities in 1953. Correspondence primarily documents the requests and acquisition or rejection of historic photographs for the company's centennial publication. These photographs were purchased from current and former workers, managers, and others who had photographs relating to the history of the company. Additional correspondence documents the Public Relations Department's work towards the celebration of the centennial and includes requests and replies for historical documentation from various internal and outside sources. Biographies include company produced and professionally published accounts of the lives of the founders of J & L and their families. Included are biographies of Benjamin Franklin Jones, Benjamin Franklin Jones, Jr., James Laughlin, and other figures in the company's management. Histories of company divisions and facilities were written by the public relations staff between the years 1938 and 1952. There are twenty-two separate histories of Jones & Laughlin, alone with additional histories written on specific plants (e.g., Otis Works and Aliquippa Works) and the areas surrounding these plants. The Historical Material is neither comprehensive nor completely objective in its approach, but does provide a great deal of information on the growth of Jones and Laughlin, their facilities and the management of the company.


The Historical material is arranged alphabetically by folder title with public relations correspondence arranged to the front.

Public Relations Correspondence 1
 1950-1953 1
Centennial Picture 
 1952 2-3
Biographies n.d. 4
Centennial Publications 1952 5
Company and Facilities n.d. 
Aliquippa (Pa.) Works 6
Chicago (Ill.) and Cincinnati (Oh.) Warehouse 7
J & L Supply Company 8
Otis Steel (Cleveland, Oh.) and Pittsburgh (Pa.) Works 9
General Material 10-11
Geographic Material ca. 1898-1938 12
Pamphlets and Brochures 1930-1950 11
Miscellaneous 2

Return to Table of Contents »

Series II General Material 1858-1970   18 folders

Scope and Content Notes

Material in this series includes stray items produced in a time span of over 110 years from various capacities of the company. Original working records include an account book from 1919-1920, a letter book, 1887-1901, 19th century advertisements, Liberty Loan material issued during World War I, and material documenting J & L's coal mining activities. Of note is the 1920 training manual written by the Bureau of Instruction, "Steel, its Manufacture andSale," issued for the training of new sales agents. The manual contains an overview of the J & L corporate structure and technical information about their products. Through these items, episodes in the company's history may be found but these items are by no means comprehensive and provide little information on the decision making process at the company or the day to day affairs.


The General Records are arranged alphabetically by folder and include publications, official documents, partnership and owner records and miscellaneous material.

Account Book 1919-1920 3
Advertisements 1858-1900 4
Coal Incline 1895 5
Correspondence Records (J & Lauth Receipt) 1858-1923 6
Correspondence 1887-1901 7
Corporate Statement Announcements 1861-1902 8
Court Materials (J & L v. U.S.) 1905 9
Liberty Loans 1916-1919 31
Management Dinner Program 1969 2
Military Specifications 1965-1970 3
Pittsburgh Song (sheet music) n.d. 4
Strip Mill Service Sheet 1944-1945 5
Training Manual 1920 
Part I 6
Part II 7
Part III 8
Part IV 9
Revisions 1922 4
Part I-II 1
Part III-IV 2

Return to Table of Contents »